What Does a Lesbian Look Like?: The Autostraddle Roundtable

What’s truly faked, of course, is high-maintenance “femininity,” with its Sisyphean plucking, shaving, coloring, creaming, curling, straightening, nipping, tucking and starving. We would fight anybody who didn’t think women should have the choice to do all of those things … But it also seems a little Orwellian that women who chose not to get involved in major personal overhauls—in other words, those women among us who look most like real, natural, unadorned, unconstructed females—are the ones who get dissed for not looking “feminine” and/or “trying to look like a man.”

-The Girls Next Door, by Lindsy Van Gelder & Pamela Robin Brandt



Firstly, I have this theory, which’s that all women are bisexual, so that’s what I assume until you declare/display allegiance to the straights or the gays. No one’s shocked to hear that I have a girlfriend, but nor was anyone surprised when I had boyfriends. Is it possible to look bisexual? If it is, I think I might … or maybe it’s just that I’m so used to feeling misread that always keeping one thing back is what I’ve become used to.


No one ever guesses anything correctly about me from just looking, and most innocuous questions I’m asked – about my family, home, religion, job, history, education — ensure a weighted/complicated answer, it’s like I can’t stop being undercover. I’ve had phases where I used my controversial factoids (which I’ll withhold here, for everyone’s sake) as party tricks but now, in line with my overall efforts to be a less abrasive human being, I have learned to evade questions, tell jokes or accept inevitably uncomfortable pauses. This isn’t the first alternative lifestyle I’ve affiliated myself with in action or appearance.

So, this includes sexuality-related inquiries.

As a little tomboy girl-child, I was frequently mistaken for male, which I usually liked, ’cause it gave me access to power, The Baseball Card Club and better soccer teams, as well as confusion and concern from relatives. My parents raised me “gender neutral” and I still lack any instinctual knowledge abut wearing makeup or outfits. I performed an elaborate Fork in the Garbage Disposal dance to prevent my grandmother from weaseling a paralyzing dress onto my badass tree-climbing monkey ‘bod. I’ve never had long hair or pierced my ears. So I’ve always had a really flexible idea of gender.

[I’d like to add that I don’t think we don’t give enough attention to how much body type factors in to our perceived gender. If we agree that gender is unfixed—fluid, created by society—then our physical appearance and attitude contributes to our gender identity insofar as it determines how the world around us will react to us. As a tall and skinny girl, my tomboyishness isn’t particularly subversive, even in adulthood. And to be fair I’m curvy enough to go full-out girly, too.

I think heavier women face a much harsher jury when considering their gendered presentations. All of society’s derogatory images of lesbians, and particularly their vocabulary—bulldyke, diesel dyke, bulldagger—imply “butch” women to be large, imposing, gruff and mean. Rosie O’Donnell’s “butch” haircut was panned as evidence of her Radical Lesbian Personality—meanwhile Suicide Girls.com can have the same haircut and people pay money to watch them make out.

ALSO there is nothing wrong with wearing birkenstocks and  flannel and having short hair! Who cares? I don’t like the attitude that there’s something inherently BAD about genuinely fitting into the “stereotype” of what a lesbo looks like. TO EACH HIS OWN.]

See; something is changing. Whereas a few years ago I noticed most women identified strongly with one end of the gender spectrum or the other, something lately has granted so many of us permission to not make that choice — and we’re not talking about androgyny. We’re talking about wearing a dress on Monday and a tie on Tuesday.marie_5773

Entering the GLBT community in my early twenties, I felt like I had to pick Boyish or Girly and then acquire the corresponding girlfriend, or that there was an expectation that accepting my sexuality would coincide with some physical style shift or enable a more honest, solid, specific sense of self. Like being gay would be the end of confusion, like coming out wasn’t that different from growing up.

I did cut off my hair at one point ’cause I was sick of being harassed by men on the street (it’s common in NYC) — and no longer cared if that meant I was never approached by the guys I actually did like, either.  It’s not that I wanted to seem gay. I wanted to seem MALE. It worked. I grow it out, I cut it, it’s all play. Now, I’m totally at peace with gender being performance and not choosing. I like wearing dresses sometimes (with combat boots or sneakers, usually) sometimes I like dressing comfy/boyish.

haircut-marchBut much like growing up, coming out isn’t the end of your search for identity and it doesn’t necessarily break you out of confusion into the clear. And my sexuality is really only one part of me. I like to think that we’re not really all bonded here ’cause we like to fuck girls, but because we share a common state of mind that’s super common amongst people who’ve absorbed the same societal clues & experiences associated with being someone who likes to fuck girls. ‘Cause a lot of AS readers aren’t gay, and also aren’t bothered by the gayness. ‘Cause it’s about something bigger than that.

So I think perhaps we should attribute various appearances to certain “types of people” not by who we sleep with but what we dream about. It’s more interesting, and far more optimistic.



Hello Autostraddle this is Tinkerbell. If you look at me and assume that I am a stuffed dog with the personality of a lincoln log, then you will never know that sometimes I have candy in my special pouch, that I used to be a purse, or that I love Littlefoot.

Because of my Mother and her friends I did not realize that some boys liked to be with girls until I had my feelings for Littlefoot. Loving Littlefoot does not make me look like other dogs or gay or straight. For example I am nothing like Tinkerbell the dog of Paris Hilton. I am much prettier and also poor. I am not like the Taco Bell dog who careos tacos. I don’t even like tacos. If every girl dog who liked dinosaurs looked the same, that would be boring, and also more competition for me, Tinkerbell. So back off.

Thank you love Tinkerbell.


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  1. For a long time, I thought that the fact that I liked having short hair made me butch. I thought that dressing in pants and t-shirts made me butch. I never felt butch, though, and never identified that way. It took me a few years to realize that I may have an androgynous appearance but I tend towards feminine on the spectrum – no matter what I may look like. You have to find the look that makes you feel most comfortable, most like you. I agree with all of you – it’s not easy as women, not easy as lesbians. Funny fact: I was called “sir” when I was 8 months pregnant…all because of my hair. We all really need to start SEEING each other.

    • Yeah, when I chopped my hair off I was afraid of other people labeling me as ‘butch’ when that’s not at all how I feel. My hair has been cropped short, halfway down my back, and everywhere in between. It’s all felt like ‘me’ and I’ll keep going back and forth. What I do enjoy most about going out with my new(er) alternative lifestyle haircut is that I don’t ‘pass’ as easily so I don’t feel like I somehow need to explain myself.

    • What do u expect when u say u like wearing Short hair? Read my lips: hair is a powerfull weapon in women. I’m a straight man, but i don’t like women with short hair. She can wear pants, although i much prefer skirt or dress, but not short hair. It’s not sexy. It turns me off. Peace!

  2. Not long after I came out a few years ago I cut my hair shorter then it had been since the third grade (when I just had to have the same mushroom cut as every boy in my class) and my mom said something like “ohh, i guess you’re going to wear your hair short now?” I’m pretty sure she thought short hair was the tell-all gay/straight give away until I pointed out that her hair was still shorter then mine.

  3. That was such a great read, and I felt some kind of relief discovering lots of girly lesbians who struggles with explaining to people that they are, indeed, lesbians. I was more of a tomboy when I was younger, but when I turned 18, for some reason, I suddenly became very feminine and I wouldn’t be able to go back, that’s just who I am, and I love it. I change of style every day, I love clothes, and it’s very difficult to put me into a box, that’s a power I quite enjoy somehow :D

    But quite often, in gay bars – and I do have a tendancy to be in a very girly outfit when I go to a gay bar – I can see women look at me like I don’t belong, some of them even told me that this wasn’t the place for “bi-curious”. I seem to be the “straight girl” who came with her gay friends, and I wish I could just have a giant neon light above my head that says “IM GAY TOO, HELLO??”. So tiring…

    :) Great article, I have to repeat myself, but I love this website and reading this right after work made my day.

    • I don’t understand this! I would just like to say that FOR THE RECORD, I would never tell a pretty girl at a gay bar that this wasn’t the place for her. That’s silly.

      • It is silly, but I can totally relate to this. Its funny that HAIR especially makes such a huge difference. My hair is long cause I think it looks better with my face/body type and it feels more like me yet somehow when I grew it out it seemed to change the way other gay ladies reacted to me. This doesn’t happen to straight girls with long or short hair, why should it happen with gay ones? It does, I have to say, change a bit as you get older, style becomes less definable somehow.

        • I think it’s for some reason just for LONG HAIR. Like having hair varying from super-short to shoulder-length has always been fine, but once you get past the shoulders you must be straight, I guess

        • I totally see where you’re coming from, but just so you know, straight girls do get it too! A few years ago I chopped my hair super short. I knew it was pretty, and a lot of non-rigid people enthusiastically agreed, but my parents and dudes were less pleased. I’ve been growing it out (for fun, not because of any feedback) lately and I get a lot of relieved comments about how much better I look already. Only from dudes, and usually in some context of ‘hot’. It’s silly and small-minded.

          Fun side note: My sister cut her hair really short too and likes to dress in boy’s clothes. My mom was really uncomfortable when sister and I would walk down the street holding hands. She said people would think we were gay. Eyeroll.

        • My hair is longer and I dress and act more boyish. I just like it long and I think I’d look funny with shorter hair.

      • My hand is up! I’m relating! I think for me my long hair is a security blanket, it stands out and therefore is kinda who I am (I’m ok with that I guess). I hate being the “bi-curious” girl. Some girls in gay bars think I’m just there to be a tease cuz I look like a girl that would prance around in a tight little outfit and then giggle that I have a bf. Uhhh, no. Depending on how much alcohol I have consumed, I will either say I have a gf (1 beer), or I will get a litte more graphic and mean, pointing out all the things I can do just like the “real gay girls” (5 stolis–not classy, but fun!)

        I find that I wanted to change my appearance to appear more “gay” to avoid these situations, but that just wouldn’t be me. On top of it all, if we are going to keep fighting that we are equal and just like everyone else, which we are, we need to stay authentic. If I am going to prove to my disapproving family that I am the same girl now with a gf that I was with a bf, then I need to keep it real. Sexuality doesn’t change who we are deep down inside.

    • I can relate too. I can’t say i’ve ever had someone be rude or make a comment about “not belonging here” but I’ve had some women come up to me and ask if I’m gay or not. My favorite was, “So you’re the supportive friend who was dragged to the gay bar tonight?” I can’t say I’m offended by it, because I sometimes think the same thing when I see a femme girl at a bar. Who might be thinking the same about me, so I should just man up and talk to her, worst case scenario she’s straight…right?
      …this stuff is tricky.

      Anyway, I agree with Lily that we should take on “the world is gay” mentality and we’ll all be happy and gay, i LOLed several times reading this and it was a great post as usual :)

    • I’ve gotten that comment at bars too, and while I am technically floating somewhere between bi and heteroflexible, I wonder where they suggest IS the place for bicurious people…

  4. I used to have this friend who hated labels (like butch or femme or even straight or gay), and it confused the heck out of me. It’s not that I’m all full of labels, but I just felt like they were so useful. Like they explained things in ways that were short and sweet, and made sense of the world that’s usually so chock full of nuances and stuff. Plus I have friends who very much like the terms “butch” and or “femme” to describe themselves. For me, I have no idea. Sometimes I would like that gender description of who I am and how I present myself, just because it seems like it would be nice to feel “settled” or something in a style. But then I go and wear my yellow sun dress or my men’s jeans and sweater combo and it’s like, ok, I guess I feel like wearing this today. So even though I don’t think I fit into any one group, I kinda wish I did.

    • Yeah I used to feel that way too, but then I wonder if that’s just a crutch … it’s certainly easier to fit into one thing or another, it’s like a place to ground yourself … but unfortunately life isn’t that easy for everyone.

    • I kinda like labels too for that reason, they’re useful. At the same time, I don’t find I fit in to a label either. It’s easier to just say I’m gay than explain that I’m not bisexual but somewhere sort of in between the two .. I just like who I like and I don’t always know “what I am”. Labels are like a starting point for something deeper.

  5. What really gets to me are the immediate judgements that people make of me because of how I may or may not look. Firstly, I hate the words butch and femme. To me, they are simply words that have clear connotations of expected personality, dress, and even sexual habits. Perhaps, it is easier for people to categorize without thinking, but it is troublesome. Secondly, if I get another look of shock when I mention something that I enjoy that is considered feminine, I think I might scream. For example, when I mentioned that I was thinking of wearing a dress and heels to my work-Christmas party, one of my managers just stared at me, without uttering a word. I hate the expectations of what I’m supposed to like or enjoy. I want people to stop defining me, when there is only one definition that is accurate. I am simply Kaitlyn, and that’s all folks.

    • You’re right – it is easier for people to categorize without thinking, except maybe those people are thinking, but they are thinking with incredibly closed minds. So frusterating!

  6. This was a really great read.

    My bowl-legged swagger of a walk gives everything away. I seem to always get approached by guys when sitting down (ala class or coffee shop), but I’ve found that girls tend to approach me when I’m standing/walking.

    I also like what Riese mentioned w/r/t bodytype. Even before I knew for certain that I was gay, I always wore a guy friend’s button-ups cinched with a belt. (Of course, the moment I had my mini-epiphany, I self-consciously stopped for fear of being perceived as ‘butch’ because of my ‘swimmer’s build’.)

    Thanks to current fashion trends, I’ve finally found a healthy medium.

    • We had a serious conversation about the lesbian swagger as a strong indicator of homosexuality — I think as a reaction to KC Danger’s Phillipines article — even though most of the girls we know don’t have it. btw, lex, lola and brooke have serious lesbian swagger.

      I always wore my Dad’s old button-ups, they must have been ten sizes too big. But also grunge was big then. Luckily as a teen somehow I was always affiliated with crowds that went fairly andro, or at least alternative.

  7. Amazing roundtable as usual. Autostraddle, for some reason, always seems to publish something that I have been currently wrestling (ha) with.
    One on hand, I don’t dress girl-y, but I love being a woman. I don’t think I dress ‘butch’ but I am described by others as ‘boy-girl’ which I don’t mind.
    On the other hand, I have five fingers.

  8. My favorite thing about this article is that you all seemed to stress the “to each his own” philosophy. Whether you tend to dress more feminine, masculine, androgynous, or if your like me, and don’t know from one day to the next what style you’ll rock, everybody should be ok with that. Whatever makes you feel comfortable is alright. This is why I love Autostraddle.

    • I think that’s crux of this conversation — I can go from “femme” to “butch” whenever the desire hits. My wife gets to do the same :) Gender is a completely subjective term, and we’ve assigned these symbols – words – for ease of communication, not for clarity. Perhaps it’s time for an evolution of language to match the evolving sexual landscape?

  9. Pingback: What Does a Lesbian Look Like?: The Autostraddle Roundtable | christmasparty

  10. This article and the following comments just let my soul sigh in relief with a breath that I didn’t realize that I was holding.

    My girlfriend dresses much more feminine than I do. I feel like she and I are in the same spectrum of masculine/feminine personality traits, but some how I look like a dyke and she looks like a beautiful feminine woman. I’ve always thought that I’m just ugly because I don’t look good in the type of clothes she wears, but really, I just feel more comfortable (and I think I probably look better, as well), in button up collared shirts and jeans.

    I guess, it’s never occurred to me that I’m allowed to dress however I want and look as un-feminine as I need to and still be as feminine as I want also. I want to get a haircut like Kate Cooper’s at An Horse’s recent show in Victoria, but I’ve been terrified to tell anyone, because it’s SO gay. But I don’t think I want a alternative haircut because I’m gay; I just think that Kate Cooper’s hair looked hot. I guess I’ve been forever stereotyping myself by how I look; how ridiculous is that? I’m done.

    • If you’d like another opinion: I think that Kate Cooper has the best hair in music right now. It’s hotness is definitely a good reason to emulate it, so I hope you go through with it!

      • Totally! Do it! Also, people who are really playing THEMSELVES, whether they do or don’t fall into a certain stylistic category, are always hot!

  11. Everyone above has already said a lot of what I’m feeling – this roundtable has come at such a pertinent time for me. Maybe autostraddle is psychic? Lately had been feeling conflicted about wearing like a shirt and jeans one day and then a dress to go out the next night, even though I’ve always switched about what I wear. Was getting annoyed/tad stressed at myself untill I realised I can dress however I want because its about what I like, not whatever other people expect. This is such a great article, and totally reassuring. As per, Autostraddle makes everyone feel better about being themselves, you guys are all v wise!

    That said, I know its v stereotypical and daft but the trend for alternative lifestyle haircuts and plaid etc at the moment is playing havoc with my (already sketchy) gaydar!

    • I know, right?! Plaid being in = awesome for lesbian closets/hard on lesbian gaydar/awesome for lesbian eyes. : )

      • I’m beginning to think that plaid can no longer be used to identify lesbians because just about everyone wears it now. But it is awesome for the eyes.

        • IKR? I’m a little perplexed by the whole flannel revolution lately. Both my parents (old guy and lady) wear flannel on a regular basis, have for my entire life. I guess I’ve always associated flannel with old people, not lesbians.

  12. I totally agree that body type has alot to do with it. My figure, (hourglass, big boobs) is such that I really don’t look butch, ever. (I’m using that term even though I agree it’s problematic, but I don’t know a better one.) Even when I’ve tried to dress in drag, the closest I look to masculine is sort of vaguely butch. Its a joke among my friends, actually.

    That said, I’m in jeans half the time and dresses the other, hate high heels and rarely ware makeup, but even so, I know alot of people assume I’m straight.

    I think there’s an expectation that women with naturally more androgynous body types are gay, whereas women like me are obviously hetero.

    Its funny that this post comes a day after I went to a LGBT event and was questioned about my presence there. I felt like shouting, “I HAVE SEX WITH WOMEN, OKAY! LEAVE ME ALONE!”

    I dress to please myself, but I think the less you can spot a lesbian at fifty paces, the better it is for ultimately challenging heteronormative assumptions about sex and gender, so I tell myself I’m being political and subverting expectations…

    • Definitely, re: body type. Just look at Kate Moennig.. she has small breasts, no curves, and we think it looks weird when she has long hair. And if a man has feminine features he’s automatically gay. It’s all about what people think gays should look like. I love finding out a “girly girl” (or Supergirl like Robin) is gay because it just defies a bunch of dumb stereotypes and preconceived notions.

  13. I don’t understand gender, I never have. My mind is androgynous, and I never saw my body as being more female than male. Why should boobs or skirts be feminine? What is feminine appearance or behavior, exactly? Why? I don’t get it.

    If a girl has long hair, in my mind she is not feminine, she has long hair, period. If I am to deduce a predisposition of hers from this fact, I’d say perhaps she doesn’t like her neck to be naked or something.

    I guess the concept of gender has been built around ideas connected to a specific practice of reproductive heterosexuality where men and women do not communicate in any way but somehow, for some reason, need to make babies (like in combined marriages, or in general marriages where you are not really in love). So, in order to get some random sperm into some random ovary you need a strong, courageous, rough and tough, goal-oriented and practical sperm-owner able to overcome any obstacle, and a good-looking, physically attractive, submissive and passive ovary-owner. This way you are guaranteed reproduction even when couples do not love and communicate with, each other. Luckily today we don’t need this shit anymore and we tend to get together “naturally”, only out of (romantic) love.

    So, I think that as we – as individuals – become more free to love only when we are in love, we tend to lose the need to conform to gender stereotypes. So basically, in this time and age, I don’t get gendered people. In fact all of my real friends are gender-neutral, and most of them also bisexual.

    • I definitely think that in general, gender is becoming less important in our society. That seems to be the trend. I don’t think that is going to lead to a society of non gendered people, but gender will be easier to subvert. Your idea about why gender was originally important is interesting. I never thought of it that way.

  14. How ironic, this week in a psych class I had to write a paper on my “gender identity,” describing if I felt “masculine” or “feminine.” It made me feel like kicking someone in the shin. How on earth do you define that? I don’t get it, nor do I give it the time of day. Does anyone really wake up in the morning saying “I’m feminine/masculine!” All I know is that I’m a girl who likes shopping, button-down shirts, naps, and other girls. And I really dislike bugs. Ick.
    P.S. What’s the dealio with hair? I dunno about you, but girls with long hair are usually at the top of my hot-o-meter. ;)

    • i know right? why would anyone give a hot girl w/ long hair shit for being at a gay bar? what is wrong with people!?

      • I was gonna say in my thing but I felt I already had enough words that when I used to go out with Haviland (and Lainy usually) we’d always be asked if we were actually gay … I’ve only been asked that when I’ve been with them.

        It’s such a weird quasi-tolerance … like we think we’re progressive enough to have straight girls at the gay bar, but not progressive enough to have long-haired gay girls at the gay bar?

  15. I’m with Riese here, where I have the “all women are bisexual” mentality (not denying lesbianism or straighntess).

    Thank you Autostradle for writing this! I feel like it’s a topic which isn’t discussed often enough without the butch/femme slant.

    • Definitely refreshing to read an article on this topic without being catagorized into butche/femme!

  16. I obvs love everything about this roundtable, as someone who receives the really-you’re-queer? double-take on a regular basis. ALSO Robin I would like to agree wholeheartedly that straight women need to stop throwing the word “girlfriend” around nonchalantly, that shit is misleading. My other pet peeve is when straight people refer to their SO as their “partner.” I guess you’re trying to be supportive/in solidarity or whatever, but let’s be real, that’s your boyfriend. And on another note, Suze Orman is terrifying.

    • I agree. Robin, Im glad you included that. I refuse to say “this is my partner”. Why do we have different words? Why can’t I just be like everyone else?! Thats my GIRLFRIENNND THANK YOUUUU.

      …just saying.

      • Six Feet Under

        Nate: This is my… uh, my girlfriend, Brenda.
        Brenda: I prefer the term “fuck puppet”
        Ruth Fisher: David, are you bringing a special friend to dinner?
        (gay) David Fisher: Why are my friends always special?
        Ruth Fisher: Okay, then. If you’re having sex with anyone, is he coming to dinner?

          • Actually, funniest moment was Claire high at the dinner table:

            Vanessa: “That sounds great. I should work with dogs.”
            Claire: “Yeah…we should all work with dogs.”

            and later…

            Keith (on the phone): Alright. Catch you later, dawg.”
            David: Dawg?
            Keith: We should all be working with dogs.

        • i miss that series so much! but i do have to say that out of any series i’ve ever watched completely through, six feet under had the best finale ever!

      • Totally agrrree. This is why I have an issue with calling marriage “gay marriage”, or the “we’ll let you get married but you can’t call it that” issue. Why should we have to use special gay terms (other than the ones we like, such as “scissoring”). It’s just another way to say, hey you’re a second class citizen so don’t breathe our air and don’t use our language. Pretty soon we’ll be using lesbian cling-on to ask which aisle we can find the “gay toast” because we will give English our gay cooties if we were allowed to speak it.

      • That is exactly what I say when I hear partner!! LOVE that you said that. I cannot stand it when people refer to their bf/gf with that term, or worse their spouse. However to me “wife” sounds too domesticated, soo not sure what I’d prefer to say once I’m married. Glad I don’t have to cross that bridge for quite some time!

      • Me too! If the idea is to say that a relationship is serious I say FAIL. I cringe. I used to worry as a kid when my friends Mom’s would say that, I used to think one day I’d have to be a ‘partner.’ My wife would introduce me and I’d have to say howdy…for-ev-er.

  17. I think that you just have to rely on gaydar anymore and, without it, you either become the bravest person in the whole world or you get slapped a LOT. ;) Personally, I like not being able to be stereotyped. If nothing else, it proves to the world that gay and bisexual people can be anyone – your teacher, your next-door neighbor, your soccer coach, your best friend… and you won’t know until we CHOOSE to tell you instead of being outed by hairstyle or clothing choice. :)

  18. This is exactly why I love love love this website! All of you are wonderfully insightful and I realize that while I may feel completely alone in my worry of gender identity, and stereotypes I am able to see that I am indeed very much not alone! I think it’s great to have a forum to have these types of discussions. I am endlessly asked if I am really gay all the time. It’s so frustrating.

    Nevertheless I can only be myself and despite having chopped off 9 inches of hair there is no denying that I will look feminine and be feminine no matter what my hair looks like. And you know I’m really really okay with that.

  19. Excellent roundtable. But this is where I make an embarrassing admission.

    Despite being out for eight or so years, I’m still amazed at how queer women seem to have a penchant for exploring, discussing, and defining their gender identity or their perceived gender. It seems to be an integral part of lesbian culture, and to be honest, doing so never crossed my mind and – I hope I don’t get my lesbian card revoked – any sort of effort on my part to take part in the conversation would be contrived, so I just sort of stay out of it, because I just can’t relate. (Yes, I do write “Stuff Lesbians Like” which explores these lesbian culture idiosyncrasies but to be honest – my entries are mostly written from an outsider’s perspective, like an anthropologist trying to make sense of an unfamiliar culture.) Like I read all these blogs – here and on other blogs where people discuss gender variance with ease and conviction – and it feels like I’m reading a foreign language.

    Anyway, reading this thread totally made me feel less gay. I’m going to go do some pushups now for fun, which won’t make me any gayer, admittedly, but I need some exercise.

    • I think for people outside of urban centers where they can live openly, like the one we live in (NYC) — many women are literally forced to think about their perceived gender or their gender identity because of ignorance, stereotyping and judgment coming from the outside. It’s also a key part of larger issues, like why gender inequity persists in the workplace, why we don’t have equal rights and why hate crimes happen. So even though we’re dealing with it on a fun or flippant level here, it has a larger implication — otherwise we wouldn’t bother. I mean it seems like a valuable conversation, or an interesting one at the very least?

      It shouldn’t make you feel less gay! It’s not about feeling gay or not feeling gay, it’s about feeling like it’s okay to think about complicated identity shit. I think it’s actually more about being WOMYN than lezbos.

      anyhow, it’s a privilege for some of us to consider these topics, but we’re also just lucky enough to be able to speak about it openly!

      • yeah i totally respect that these conversations speak to a large segment of the lesbian population, so of course, keep having ’em! :) but for me, coming out in the wild woolly land of nyc was a totes confusing experience, because people would have these types of discussions and i would be like “…” also just observing the dykes in college, i was like, wow, they think about their identities a lot. in contrast, i knew lesbos back in high school in my southern town, and they seemed to be less into processing their identity and more into just finding each other and having a community. (fun fact – my best friend actually started the first gay straight alliance in public school in my state!)

        i suppose i would like to just throw it out there that it’s okay not to feel compelled to think about complicated identity shit. but then we wouldn’t have these entertaining blog posts, so i’ll just shut up now.

        p.s. i did 8 pushups, which was 2 more than i could do three days ago.

      • I am the only out lesbian at my high school, so I am very aware of the fact that my peers’ acceptance of me and my sexuality is directly proportionate to my ability to blend in with the straight girls. So, yeah, I worry about my gender presentation a lot when I’m at school. However, I’m very involved in queer youth activism, and when I’m surrounded by other queer kids, none of this shit really matters anymore. Like Grace said, we’re all so desperate for community that no one really cares what you look like. Sure, people have assumed that I’m a straight ally before, but no one has ever treated me like I don’t belong because of the way I dress or the length of my hair.

    • I completely agree with you. I feel like “gay” is more of a cultulral identifier more thany anything else. And as a Black chica I do understand that sometimes as a minority one can get caught up in “what it means” to be this or that. But seriously, perhaps because I’ve lived my whole life straight, but have recently come to terms with the fact that I literally get turned on mentally/physically/emotionally/sexually by anyone who’s attractive (regardless of gender) to me, I’ve never had this huge crisis that most people seem to have. And I think that crisis has to do with constantly trying to fit into a “label”. Not that I’m against labels. They make sense and they organize our world, but serioulsy some pople “go hard in the paint (waka flocka song)” for a label. They aren’t for everyone. I remember in college in all of my sexuality/feminism courses, all of the self proclaimed “lesbians” had so much to say about being butch or femme and how it defines them… and I was thinking to myself “to be so self-dubbed “alternative” you [college peers, not you wondrous autostraddle lovelies] are so limited/conservative in how you view sexuality and identity in general”. It confused me. It still confuses me, but I get it. It’s sort of like how the race struggle for a Black person in America of the Beyonce/A Keys/Rihanna variety is more tolerable than that of a India Arie/Angie Stone. The less you fit in (perception wise) the more aware you are of what it is that makes it more difficult for you to assimilate. But also, maybe it confused me because I thought if someone was gay they were also intellectually progressive, but really it just means they like the same gender. …that was a joke… and it’s even more irritating because as I am the type of girl who’s obsessed with fashion and vogue and nylon and rihanna and style, yet I feel like I’m not taken seriously. When in actuality I truly feel I’m a bit more progressive in thought and perspective than many people perceive. My motto is just let people rock.

      Own your identity people, don’t let it own you. Remember that, bitches. haha.

  20. Well, firstly great roundtable (as always)! Very thought-provoking and insightful.
    I am still in that trying-to-figure-out-my-identity phase right now, and I don’t dress conventionally “girly” or whatever and because of my personality I guess people sometimes do think I’m gay. But I can’t help but sometimes wonder, if I was out as gay, if I’d be more open to expressing myself, appearance-wise. Like if I’d be more accepted dressing however I want, however I am comfortable. When identifying as heterosexual, I feel like there is also a pressure to fit that stereotypical appearance. I don’t know if it is to be the boy-pleasing attractive girls society tells us to be, or if it’s just some fear of being in the same boat as the minority. Why dress alternatively and be perceived as queer when you identify as straight and can have the privilege that comes with appearing that way? I don’t know. Just sometimes maybe I do think it’d be nice to wear a suit or collared shirt or just not wear heels, but then I feel outcasted within the hetero community (and perhaps disregarded by guys) for this alternative-lifestyle choice. I know appearance shouldn’t matter and you should just be yourself ladida, but for now that’s just my take on the matter. Sometimes I want to be queer just to be comfortable in my outfits. I guess I should just follow Tinkerbell’s wise words that “If every girl dog who liked dinosaurs looked the same, that would be boring”. Be yourself. Amen.

    • This is the problem with visually identifying and labeling people. More often than not, that label is incorrect. It can be a hard decision to express yourself when it’s going to strip you of some privilege. But I say fuck it, wear what you want. If people think you’re gay, you can always set them straight. Hopefully they see assumptions aren’t always right. Follow Tinkerbell’s advice, always.

  21. I’d just like to draw attention to the fact that this roundtable is so awesome that no one has even commented on Young Robin’s acid wash denim vest from the 90s.

    • i have a lot of feelings about that, but moreso about alex’s hair and crystal’s reebok pumps, which i am coveting.

  22. I guess gender identity has always confused me. As a kid, I would only wear boyish clothes, but I cried if someone tried to cut my hair shorter than my waist (or pierce my ears). Still haven’t done either.
    Weird fact: More guys hit on me when I’m dressed like them.

    • or foreshadowing! autostraddle: girl-on-girl culture and teenage mutant ninja turtles. the two things we all have in common!

  23. this was really incredible. as someone who has had a long and weird journey when it comes to gender presentation, it’s great to hear other voices and knowing that i’m most definitely not alone. this was an amazing round table!

    thank you, Autostraddle.

    • Sometimes I feel like I’m on that exact journey, and sometimes it feels like it’s never been a big issue for me at all. Does that make any sense?

  24. this is why autostraddle is just plain /AWESOME. a couple of my friends were talking about this topic a couple of nights ago and we realized just how scattered perceptions of sexuality and gender and attraction are (and how that lack of cohesion is really what individual identity is all about). to each his or her own! i’m blanking on the writer/academic’s name that presented this, but I once read about sexual identity framed within the concept of ice cream flavors (and i think this can also be applied to the roundtable too): some people go for chocolate and some go for vanilla, almost exclusively. but within those subsets there is variation (ie, preferences for french vanilla versus vanilla bean). and then, of course, there are those people who like strawberry, pistachio, cookies & cream and all the flavors in between, with preferences for some flavors over others. most people stick to their favorites, others mature into different tastes and there are those people who pretty much like any and all ice cream flavors (guilty), selecting on a case-by-case basis. so there you go. maybe b/c i love love LOVE ice cream this framework made a lot of sense to me. i feel like autostraddle = ben+jerry’s cherry garcia. somewhat decadent but still nuance and refined; a little fruity but all-around appealing.

    • That is an amazing analogy. I think it’s true, too, there are people who always go for the same thing, and then some who will try anything. Of course, we don’t have labels for people who only eat vanilla ice cream. Or do we?

  25. ps I wrote a song inspired by this article. If I become rich and famous (which I won’t because I put very little effort into my music), autostraddle will be like, way up there on my list of stuff I support.

  26. Tinkerbell! It’s good to see you have recooperated from your accident. Thank god your mommies were there.

  27. I feel like Reise’s part of this is one of the most validating things I have ever read. Tote’s just cried at work ya’ll and today I wore a tight vneck and non waterproof mascara…. because I could. Damn… should have opted for fresh-faced laker jersey thursday. love love love love love.

  28. I had very long hair till I was 18 when I came to my senses, got it thinned out, then eventually got it cut really short. To be honest, shorter looks better on me, I just think it goes well with my face shape, and long hair fucking sucks (on me). I even dressed very tomboyish till I was 16, I definitely came away from that and become more androgynous.
    Do I think I have gay written all over me? Apparently not, since I’m still having to come out to people at work when they ask “so do you have a boyfriend?” then I answer, “no, I’m gay” and they reply “you are??”. Like, really? There are times when I wish I can go to work with “super gay!” written all over my arms. There should be a handbook made on how to make your homosexuality obvious while at the same time being subtle.

    • I would totally buy that handbook. I apparently look straight, too, and I’ve gotten the same reaction from coworkers. It’s hard to always have to come out and tell people. The people that “look gay” don’t have to go through the trouble. Actually, I think we should have some sort of secret code, like a bracelet or something. I need that more for other gay ladies. You don’t get hit on when you look like the straight girl at the gay bar.

      • I have been trying to sell Alex on the idea that our key to fame and fortune is creating & selling a wristband/bracelet of sorts that queers will identify and straights will have no idea (and if they do, obvs they’re on our side and reading our media) .

  29. as a kid, I was definitely a tomboy. boys clothes. short hair. whole deal. and was often mistaken for a boy. it upset me, and subsequently made what must have been a subconscious decision to have super long hair. though, I must admit, gender identity never crossed my mind. until, that is, I began to realize that I liked girls and not boys. I never really questioned myself, though. or my own gender identity. I was more concerned with what other people thought. even still, I never felt like I was trying to fit into any sort of mold. I wasn’t trying to pass as something I wasn’t. but, I was hiding. not from expressing my gender identity, but from any form of self expression based on physical appearance. I hid behind my long hair and wore it in a ponytail nearly everyday for eight years. I hid in baggy jeans and over-sized hoodies.

    once I “officially came out” I didn’t cut my hair, or change the way I dressed. I didn’t change anything. I was convinced that everyone would think I was trying too hard to be perceived as gay. so, nothing changed. if anything, I tried to be as un-gay as possible. which makes no sense to me now. that’s what coming out’s all about, right? finally being comfortable enough with yourself to be completely honest with people? I didn’t, though. I continued to hide.

    so, it’s been two years since I came out and I’m finally becoming more comfortable with myself. and having realized all of this, I’m slowly beginning to dress the way I feel comfortable. and in things that I think look good on me. I think about the concept of gender identity a lot, but rarely relate it to myself. I guess, I’m just happy being me and with wearing whatever catches my eye. rather than trying to be perceived one way or another.

    • Nice point about dressing in things YOU think look good on you, that make YOU comfortable. For a long time, I found myself drawn to certain styles I simply couldn’t pull off or feel comfy in. Then my whole world opened up and I realized I really just wanted to date a girl with that style.

  30. I would like to have seen more representation of larger women. This article seems to be ‘We’re hot, y’all?’ Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed it, but show me Julie Goldman or Beth Ditto.

    • You’re absolutely right and I agree, I too would have liked to seen more representation of larger women!! Unfortunately the Autostraddle Roundtable surveys the opinions of the Autostraddle Team, so we’ve got what we’ve got (unfortunately Beth Ditto is not on the team, i think she is v.busy with her band and stuff) — we frequently point out that our team is far from a representative sample of the population. I wrote a bit about the body size issue in my own piece b/c it is annoying that we don’t have anyone on the team to speak from that POV. I don’t know how to fix that, short of putting out a call on twitter “hey we need a larger woman to be a special guest on our Autostraddle roundtable to talk abut her gender identity!” … maybe i should have done that? Thoughts?

      Beth Ditto is on our Top Ten Lesbian Fashion Icons list, check that out. We’re also working with Julie Goldman on a really exciting project right now for AS so maybe we’ll get that topic in there. Also … like knowing her in real life, I don’t think I’d categorize her as a “larger woman.”

      Also I don’t think we’re hot, y’all was the mood of the piece … at least it wasn’t for me! In any event, hotness has nothing to do with body size, so I guess I don’t understand your point there. Please advise.

      • thanks for replying. i read this/commented when i was very tired and i obviously missed the point of the article, which i did really enjoy. i think what i was trying to say is that i find it very frustrating when lesbians (myself included) have this sort of rather delighted ‘no-one ever believes i’m a lesbian b/c i’m so hot’ attitude. like it’s some sort of compliment to be a ‘suprise!’ lesbian. i’m not even sure whether i’m being clear.

        • No, I do totally get what you’re saying … buttt

          – Would you feel that way if the three girls who wrote about that experience (robin, lily, brooke) weren’t hot? B/c none of them actually say that being hot is what makes people think they’re straight, they say it’s their long hair, really. In lily and robin’s case, an overall affinity for makeup & dresses. So if they had pictures of themselves and they were not hot, or they were ‘larger’ or anything like that, would you have the same reaction?

          – I understand what you’re saying b/c sometimes I have that reaction to this too, like well, how oppressed can you REALLY be when the problem is people think you’re too hot to be a lesbian? Boo hoo …

          BUT I think that’s an invalid feeling because on a macro level, it’s really fucked up that people assume lesbians look a certain way or that a hot girl can’t be a lesbian. I mean ditto for gay men, it’s fucked up that they assume men who AREN’T good looking AREN’T gay. We need to break out of these categories that sexuality and physical appearance have any relationship whatsoever. That’s how we’ll enable political change and societal change, is when we lose the pigeonholing and the “otherness” … there’s still a misconcpetion that lesbians are women who ‘couldn’t get men’ and as lame as it is, the truth is that the subversiveness of portia de rossi being gay does a lot for people who think it’s a “choice.” yannow?

          • I agree w/ Riese on all counts. Furthermore, re: the “too hot to be a lesbian/too ugly to be a gay man” thing, a friend of mine recently told me that “one day Portia was going to wake up and realize that she was too hot to be a lesbian,” and although he was joking around when he said it, there’s a truth in that statement. People actually think that. So while that’s not really what any of us were necessarily saying in this roundtable, I think the argument is not without some merit.

          • I just want to apologise for how self-righteous and pissed my first post sounds. I was so tired and mad with myself. Emo alert.

            I totally agree with you both.

            Bottom line- as a young lesbian I feel incredible additional pressure to be percieved as ‘hot’ because of the stigma we deal with of being ‘fat and ugly’. I feel I have twice the amount to prove because not only do I have to meet the standard whacked expectations of ‘hotness’ but I also have to defy this stereotype. It strikes me that it is an internal homophobia that I have, that I don’t want to be associated with the archetypal ‘lesbian’ That in working my butt off at the gym I am really saying ‘Oh no, that is them but this is me. Check me out.’ I am disassociating myself from my people. This part of me frightens me.

            Apart from when it is gay people doubting my gayness, I like being mistaken for being straight. I love the mindfuck when you tell people you are gay and they are so shocked. I guess I want the girls and the heterosexual privalege.
            The worse part of it is, I like being hit on by men. I never lead them on, because that is really low. But I feel like I am acceptable in some way when I do get male attention.

            I’m trying to be 100% truthful here. I’m sorry if I offend anyone with my fucked up way of seeing things. If anyone has anything to say to help me change my thinking I would so love to hear it.

  31. Just an update (that will blow their minds): Today’s outfit=PLAID. DRESS.

    That’s right, both at the same time!

  32. This was such a great article. I’ve been having a lot of feelings about this as of late.

    People are always surprised when they find out that I am gay, and I am always surprised that they are surprised. My hair is as short as my naturally curly hair will allow while still looking good. I NEVER wear dresses. My outfits consist of skinny jeans and plaid button downs, and I don’t own a single pair of heels. Yet everyone is always shocked to find that I am gay. Sometimes I think that this is because I live in Nebraska and everyone here is so so “straight” thinking. My gay guy friends are the worst I think. They are always like “I would have never guessed you were gay” or “you’re just too pretty to be gay” and that really pisses me off.

    I surround myself with gay men because I just cannot find any lesbians here like me. I wish I lived in NYC so I could hang out with all the autostraddle ladies b/c you actually care about style and fashion like I do. I can’t find any other lesbians here that do and it makes me really sad.

    Thank you for this article it made me feel less alone.

    • “you’re just too pretty to be gay” — that is like my least favorite EVER. Like, are we supposed to feel complimented by that? What if we said “you’re not crippled enough by a sense of privilege and narcissism to be a man!” We’re glad you enjoyed the article – that’s what we like about autostraddle, too! We all feel a little less alone with every comment like yours; thanks for that!

      • yes, sometimes when people find out I have a gf, they look disappointed, like “what a waste”. Like, “what a waste of a pretty girl because MEN DESERVE THE PRETTY GIRLS! Leave the ugly ones for the lesbians.”

        stupid. shit.

        • unusual sidenote undiscussed topic; when hav and i sorta dated briefly, apparently MY BOSS at my WORKPLACE was saying to the other publishing kids that us seeing each other was a “tragedy” to men, my co-worker immitated him like shaking his head sadly going “what a waste.” like wtf. really? what a loss. also he had adult friend finder in his bookmarks even though he was married. just saying.

          • Sounds like he’s a model employee for for setting standards in workplace appropriateness.

            P.S. I just got my first ever “Alternative Lifestyle Haircut”, so I think the answer to the title question is now “me”.

          • Oh man, my BOSS at MY WORKPLACE (this isn’t as bad as yours, but still), told me that it was ‘a waste’ that Portia de Rossi is gay. Bizarre thing? My boss was a straight woman. What the fuck?????

        • god I know! almost every guy i’ve came out to reacts like that. the one’s i still talk to still try to hit on me hoping one day i will realize that I’m not gay or something. it’s so fucking annoying.

  33. I was reading comments about this “tragedy to men” thing and i thought of something. My best friend came out of the closet recently(we´re both male if that matters) and it´s great in one way for me, because now when we are two together somewhere women give me more attention then before since he´s off there market. And in respect to gay stereotypes he used to get a lot of female attention because of how masculine he is.

    anyway nice roundtable.

  34. Pingback: L’Autre Cercle contre les discriminations, la lettre codée d’Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jane Lynch, etc.: Revue de web « Yagg - Le nouveau média gay et lesbien. Info gay et lesbienne, bi et trans, vidéos, débats, dossiers, vih, culture

  35. I was introduced to Autostraddle by a gay male friend of mine. I just came out (in October) and found the comments hilarious, yet insightful. Nonetheless, I had to frown at the imprudent concept of “what does a lesbian look like?” I am feminine, aesthetically appealing (so I am told), and had a really hard time coming out because I was not even sure if there were that many feminine lesbians as myself. I was often told, “you do not look gay,” or, “you kidding me? You do not even look lesbian.” I find the whole labeling disheartening for many of us who are not even sure if coming out of the closet is a great idea. Struggling with that for 10 years and even being frowned upon in the lesbian community because of my degree of “hotness” and “feminine attributes” is just flabbergasting. We are already struggling with our identity at work (I am a high school teacher – talk about struggle), with family, and friends, yet we still get backlashed by some self righteous lesbians who believe that being a lesbian means looking aberrant, or different, or “queer.” What about just being you? What if being a lesbian is accepted as a huge diversity, or spectrum of cultures from queer, to simply feminine and just letting it be?

    • I think that’s what the article is about, yeah? I’m not sure if you mean by this comment to criticize the title, which is fair, or to criticize the article, in which case I’m unclear what is the problem, or if it is to say that although you frowned at first, you were won over when you realized the article attempted to make the same points you made in the last few sentences of your comment. I think reading the whole thing you get a sense of where we stand which is just like how you stand. Just letting it be.

  36. One amazing thing about being relatively “new” to this site is going back and viewing the articles I didn’t read when they were first released and the amount of relief and acceptance I feel.

    This. This roundtable was so fantastic that I was almost crying. I received a rather unwelcomed response when I reached out to the UNITY organization on my college campus due to my appearance. I was looked at like I was some kind of joke because I was so feminine. I was incredibly alone in my coming out process because I didn’t really know anyone who was gay and being judged by people I would be able to relate to was so hurtful; if they only knew the struggle I went through to get where I was. It felt like I fit in nowhere until I found Autostraddle. But I agree with all of you when you say that the only way to break the stereotypes is to remain true to who you are/look the way you are most comfortable and confident.

    Also, I think this is a really important point:
    “But much like growing up, coming out isn’t the end of your search for identity and it doesn’t necessarily break you out of confusion into the clear. And my sexuality is really only one part of me. I like to think that we’re not really all bonded here ’cause we like to fuck girls, but because we share a common state of mind that’s super common amongst people who’ve absorbed the same societal clues & experiences associated with being someone who likes to fuck girls. ”

    My identity search is definitely not over, but the weight has lifted significantly. I was initially drawn to Autostraddle because I liked women but it became so much more than that. I can relate to all of you on levels way beyond my sexuality and I think it shows in the huge amount of topics covered on this site. Every time a new article is posted, I feel as if I always have something to say. I wish I could word what I’m trying to say better…but my mind is failing me at the moment. I relate more to you women, who I have never met, than to my best friends I have had for 6+ years.

    Anyway, I know I have stated this before but I feel like I need to end my little spiel with it again. You have impacted my life in more ways than you can imagine. Thank you so much.

  37. Megan,
    I’m glad you wrote what you did here. I can imagine that you must have felt vulnerable doing so, but you said it well.
    I too have been alone until recently in my coming out process (FOUR women I am close to in my life came out to me this month), and have felt pressure to change what I look like. I’ve also felt pressure to ‘prove’ that I’m not just ‘experimenting’.
    We gotta stay true to who we are! Be strong.

  38. My thoughts on this whole topic of “looking good” is that people look good when their insides match their outsides.

    You can tell when someone’s outsides match their insides, because they have a calm confidence.

  39. I talk about this all the time! It’s really frustrating. Sometimes I feel like I’m not accepted by the community. I would be what you’d call a LIPSTICK lesbian. Everyone assumes that I’m straight. And although I don’t really like labels, I think it would be nice to walk into a crowd full of people, and women would automatically KNOW i was on their team. That would be great. But that doesnt happen because I “look” straight. So I’m always asking “how can i look more GAY??”. Haha…and I’d rather not stop wearing heels, or cut off my hair. I enjoy fashion, in fact, it’s my career…so I am always at a loss here.

  40. I’ve noticed the longer I’ve been out, the more I use labels in a campy way. They’re useful, but it’s not politics. I think I spent a lot of time on self-reflection after coming out because I had something to prove and that it’s been pointed out so many times to me that I’m different. The plight of the baby dyke. I look dykey and I assumed I had a very masculine mind, but then I met some hard femmes that flipped my world around..

    • (Not to offend) But I’m sure you were not born ON the “radar” either.

      Becoming a whole person (gay, straight, queer or rumbas) is a continual evolution. I haven’t seen a point in life were I found myself saying “Yep, I’m here! Here I am!” So how can you NOT feel comradely to everyone who’s traveling the same road? …as long as they’re not trying to push you off of it.

      We all want to be happy, whole and living a good life surrounded by good people.

  41. Can we just create a GAY handshake or gang sign or something?! That would make my life a hellava lot easier. Want someone to know you’re gay- throw the gay sign. Want to know if some lovely lady across the room is also into the ladies- throw the gay sign and see if she responds….

  42. For the first girl…You write that you “enjoys objectifying women.” What the hell is that supposed to mean?

  43. I think its cool that everyone doesnt look like the typical lesbian… it leaves more room to hit on those straight girls and actually having those curious enough to go for it! hehehe

  44. I look like a girl and im gay the only bad thing is that no one no that im gay and it sux :( and it’s hard because im only attracted to girly girls witch makes my life really hard because even if i find a girly girl they are always taken to be honest i really wish i was straight :(

  45. I would just like to say since im going to gay pride tommorow, that the day i really look forawrd to i dont want to go anymore.. this is because although my family know i like girls and am gay they still question it alot.
    they ask how im gay when iv never been with anyone or that i dont have short hair and dont dress like one.
    i like dressing like a girl and have long blonde hair why are my family accepting and now they want me to start acting like a lesbian if im gonna say im gonna be one when i dont think a lesbian should have a look.

    yes iv never been with anyone because id rather not try kissing a boy to see if i like it i thought u had to like boys and then kiss them because u like them not kiss them to see if u like them .
    i think women are beautiful and i want to kiss them not men this is how i know im gay and i have realli deep feelings for them..

    why do people ask how do u know.. same way u know u are straight i like a person mabye u havent kissed them but that doesnt have to prove u like them

    i wish i was excited to to go to pride but now people i feel are brainwashing me im not douting myself but i dont feel confident about being gay anymore. its just weird

  46. I noticed that some gay women has a “low” voice, somewhat obese, wear collared shirts, have short hairdos, and hardly if not no makeup. Why?

  47. Where was this article 8 years ago when I first came out and couldn’t figure out FOR THE LIFE OF ME why girls at gay bars wouldn’t give me the time of day?! I could have chopped my hair off and gotten a lot more action.

    (FWIW, I’m what you’d classify as femme & pretty darn cute. Oh, and I’m also bi, which most lesbians would use as justification for questioning my gay-ness if they had ever taken the time to actually get to know me.)

  48. Hey! I know how coming out as lesbian, gay, bi or transgendered, it’s such a ride I’m a lesbian myself so I know the trauma it can create. I came out 4 weeks ago and told my best mate I like her. It was ok because even though she didn’t feel the same, she still accepted me. Please, if you need or want ANY I would be elated to help. So, for the moment this is all I have but dont hesitate to write to me and ask for my help if you should need it. Melaney xx

  49. Hey! I know how coming out as lesbian, gay, bi or transgendered feels, it’s such a ride. I’m a lesbian myself so I know the trauma it can create. I came out 4 weeks ago and told my best mate I like her. It was ok because even though she didn’t feel the same, she still accepted me. Please, if you need or want ANY I would be elated to help you. So, for the moment this is all I have but dont hesitate to write to me and ask for my help if you should need it. I maybe a newbie but I’m not closetted anymore and can positivly help you. Melaney xx

  50. Why must there even BE a certain look? Just accept me for who I am and leave my sexuality out of it. I’m a human being and that should be enough! Btw, I AM a lesbian and damn proud!

  51. I used to be a real butch in highschool, dressed in guys clothing, but wan’t a lesbian at the time… now in my 30’s, I love to shop, look good, wear girly things, but now I am a lesbian… I enjoy looking my best, not to attract, but to be stylish for myself. BUT… I am the more masculine in the relationship, partly because I am 6’0 tall and enjoy being the romantic one… but I am still a girl, and LOVE IT!!!

  52. Historically, people have always tried to assign visual cues to differentiate between groups. An essential part of queering modern society is showing people that things are not a simple as we think and to realize that we cannot continue to rationally differentiate groups from each other by creating differences that don’t exist or an unimportant outside of a few places and areas that are unimportant and unessential in most interactions.

  53. I am coming to this late, real late..i think all of us have to look at others and accept them for whatever..personally i hate the use of partner..i have a partner in another country and he and i collaborate on our art and teaching every single day..i am sure his wife has no idea…it makes no diff..we are true partners in the best sense of the word..as to looks..some in my community look stereotypical but never seen ties…never..i am a tomboy but always very casual but nice casual…no belts ( reminds me of work when I worked) and no slacker clothes…and i wear short hair and nails…i am a swimmer and have been for many years….have very wavy thick hair..long hair is not an option and nails are killed in the chlorine. Here in Canada, no one asks…it is rude anyway…love whomever and screw all stereotypes!( PS most people even the gay ones do not think I look enough gay) LOL!

  54. I have the opposite problem. I am a ‘bi’ girl i hate that label but I do like men and women. I feel like straight people think i’m ‘too gay’ coz i like rainbows and *shock, horror* kiss my girlfirend in public, and gay people think i’m too fem /straight coz i wear dresses have long hair and have only had one gf.

    Its rediculous, if i’d never had a boyfriend i still think i’d struggle to fit in any box, i like outdoor adventure sports, bugs dont scare me, neither does mud, wrestling (arm or not) is fun and I love a bit of banter (along with lots of my other ‘masculine traits’ but I have long blonde hair, wear make-up (some of the time), and love my pretty dresses, tight clothing and skirts.

    So stuff if with boxes and label, i think while they can be helpful there are often limiting and exclusionary and we are never going to full live up to what they perscribe.

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  56. I love this article because it’s so varied: I also love what Riese says about ” We’re talking about wearing a dress on Monday and a tie on Tuesday”, because that completely sums up my gender presentation! While my gender stays (fairly!) constant at female, my expression is super fluid, and I definitely am more androgynous on some days and more femme on others. Thanks!

  57. As a nearly androgynous transwoman who identifies as lesbian this was always a problem for me. There is a tendency to be mistaken for an effeminate gay male, butch female or just plain vanilla male depending on the day.

    I have found that people tend to signal their sexual identity most reliably in very subtle ways that have more to do with body language, mannerisms, spoken language on an interpersonal level rather than mere fashion. You have to own your own identity and project it as best you can all the time to find the ones who will really love you for who you are. We all exist on a spectrum and it is a wide one.

    As others have commented, it shouldn’t matter if the whole world knows your preference, just the ones your interested in.

  58. I’m still trying to accept myself as more gay-leaning than bisexual at this point in my life. Along with that comes issues of how I present myself. The good news is, I’m getting more comfortable with just being myself! This article was a nice reminder that I don’t have to look any one way, and I can just be myself (and that it’s okay for that to change as I change – it’s all valid). Thanks for that. <3

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